Setting company principles is fundamentally different from setting your company's mission. While the latter provides a North Star for employees to work towards, your principles are the ways in which your company actually operates to reach that destination. Just look at Google's innovation principles or Amazon's leadership principles, both of which have significantly shaped the way they think about, and work towards, success.
What Google and Amazon's success shows us is that while any company can claim to follow a set of principles, it's the organizations that meaningfully engage with those principles that have the most talented and invested employees. It's one thing to simply cascade down a checklist of things your employees are "supposed" to do and another for them to feel connected to the company's principles in their everyday work.
Having and engaging with a set of principles can have a huge impact on your company's success, especially with regards to retaining top employees and building an invested team. It's important to think about the right way to frame your company's principles and how you can use them to effectively engage your team.
The Three Principle Framework
It is important for organizations to align and set guiding principles, as part of their mission, and there are three principles that are crucial to your company's success:
- Customer Principle: You want to make sure that you're always operating in the lens of serving your customers -- after all, it's (hopefully) why your company exists in the first place. Every business is different, so set a principle that aligns with the specific value you provide to customers. Amazon's customer principle is "Customer Obsession" because earning customer trust is key to the success of their ecommerce business. At Issuu, our customer principle is "Empowering Creators" because we offer a product and services that empower content creators.
- People Principle: You should focus on the value of your employees. The success of your business depends on your people, so it's important to show them you value their ideas and work. Setting a people-focused principle also demands clear accountability, so employees feel like their work actually contributes to top company goals. Another principle example is "Ideas Over Titles" because empowering your team and the development of great ideas comes with the inclusion of every individual employee -- regardless of their title.
- Growth Principle: Focus on the business through growth and improvement. This principle is about always moving, growing, and staying hungry. Google's growth principle is "Aim to be 10 times better". Businesses that operate like startups, with hunger and with a lot of room to grow, is how they continue to innovate.
Your principles have an enormous impact on company culture and how invested your team feels in the company and its mission. This is especially valuable for companies that work cross-office with multiple locations. Set aside time to focus on how to make your company "10 times better" and make a plan for how to get there.
So, after setting your company's major principles, the next step is to evangelize and engage with those principles.
Engaging Your Team and Creating a Collaborative Space
How do you get your team inspired by the values you've communicated? It's important to weave your principles into day-to-day operations, and constantly ensure that they're alive and beneficial. Here are three strategies:
- Use the right tools: The channels you use to evangelize your company's principles can greatly impact the effectiveness of those principles - from one-on-ones, referencing them in meetings, typing them back to product roadmaps and updates, internal company newsletters, and customers communications.
- Utilize your leaders: A huge asset that executives can leverage to promote your company's principles are through their top leaders and managers. Ask yourself: how are your leaders within the company making an effort to continually communicate and integrate company principles into operations?
- Foster two-way conversations: When communicating your business' principles, it's important that it is never a one-way conversation. Be open to making changes and creating the best working environment. Your team should have as much say in shaping your company's principles as any top-level executive.